KNIGHTSTOWN — A win over Knightstown is always reason for an Eastern Hancock athletic team to celebrate.
That the Royals also won a conference title Wednesday with a victory over their nearest small-school rival was a nice bonus.
The Eastern Hancock wrestling team captured its first-ever Mid-Hoosier Conference crown, beating Indian Creek 43-30 and then the host Panthers 46-29 in the final match of the tri-meet. Knightstown opened the evening with a 50-27 win over Indian Creek.
The Royals are enjoying a resurgence under first-year coach Keith Oliver, a 2002 EH graduate who estimated Wednesday’s win over Knightstown might have been the first in the series since he wore wrestling tights.
“It’s been a while,” said Oliver, a two-time individual sectional champ who helped EH win its last two team titles, in 2001 and 2002. “It could even have been as long as 10 or 12 years ago, so yeah it’s been quite a while.”
Oliver credited the Royals’ senior class with fueling the turnaround, and it was a senior who started a pivotal mid-match EH run against Knightstown.
With the Royals ahead 22-17, Nathan Kell scored an 8-3 decision to give EH a 25-17 edge. Kell, a senior 138-pounder, was one of five Royals to finish 2-0 on the night.
Junior Brandon Ray (145) followed with a victory after his opponent suffered an arm injury and defaulted. Jarrod Waterman, a sophomore 152-pounder, put the Royals up 34-17 by pinning a Panther.
After Knightstown responded with a victory at 160 to close within 34-23, Matt Bowman essentially clinched the EH victory with a win by fall at 170.